If you’re a strict parent you might be raising a bully

Authoritarian parenting is associated with traditional bullying and cyberbullying, researchers reveal

Natalie Elliott

A study by University of South Africa academics Catherine Govender and Kelly Young found that authoritarian parenting, which they defined as a “rigid, repressed, non-negotiable, power-oriented and hierarchical”, is associated with traditional bullying and cyberbullying.

Catherine Govender of Unisa.

CO-AUTHOR Catherine Govender of Unisa.

Reporting on their work in The South African Journal of Education, the authors said children subjected to the kind of power imbalance found in such families were more likely to act aggressively towards their peers.

Other studies had found that when children felt their parents were insensitive to their own pain, they showed no empathy to those they deemed weaker than them, Govender and Young noted.

“The elements of vertical individualism, especially the power imbalance, prompt individuals to perpetrate acts of peer aggression, such as bullying,” they said.

Bullying is most common between the ages of 11 and 13 (grades 6 and 7). Primary school pupils are more likely to be bullies than high school pupils are.

Nearly a third of the 272 children in the study, from four primary schools in Benoni, Gauteng, had bullied someone in a traditional sense at least once in the previous year, with just under 2% of these being regular bullies.

Cyberbullying was not as frequent, but the researchers said the nature of shared technology meant even a single instance of cyberbullying could snowball out of control.

While Grade 6 children are the more likely culprits of traditional forms of bullying, such as aggressiveness, cyberbullying is more of a Grade 7 phenomenon.

Cyberstalking and online harassment are both perpetrated by 13-year-olds who for the first time are allowed on Facebook and Twitter.

Older pupils are more likely to have “cellphones, access to the internet, knowledge of current apps and instant messaging services”, the study said.

Govender and Young said the long-term consequences of bullying also had negative effects on the economy, with a raised likelihood of landing up in jail or unemployed later in life.

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